Incest and the Right to Family Life: A Political Conundrum
The recent case in Germany of Patrick Stuebing and Susan Karolewski’s incestuous relationship has just come to an eruptive end with their fight lost in the European Court of Human Rights, but what are the political implications of this? Stuebing and Karolewski are biologically brother and sister but were never socialised as such and grew up apart with Stuebing being adopted and only rediscovering his biological family at the age of 18.
Stuebing has already served a prison sentence for this incestuous relationship but nothing deters them and ethically should it? How would any of us feel at being told we could not be with the one we love, would we fight? Love is a tricky topic as it means different things to different people but what we all know is that it is not chosen. It is rarely based on logic or reason and that is the sole reason it is valued so highly. It is one of the few commodities that cannot be bought, sold or exchanged but in cases like these, it can be forced into submission.
They argued that both their right to privacy and their right to family life were being oppressed and they wanted the German
government to change the law on incestuous relationships. Stuebing and Karolewski have four biological children together, two of whom are disabled and it is this which causes the controversy. Incestuous relationships are banned in many countries for that very reason, the risk of disabilities in any children borne from these relationships. Now let me ask you, does a risk of disability negate the joy of a child’s birth? Should disabled (non-related) adults be refused the right to have a child due to an increased risk of disability?
The couple’s lawyer said that “everyone should be able to do what he wants as long as it doesn’t harm others” and “harm” is the operative word here. Has that child been harmed? Two of the four children were born ‘normal’, for lack of a better word, but who is to say that the two children who are disabled cannot live ‘normal’ lives. Disability remains a taboo in today’s society but here is the truth: we can contribute, we can live, we can be productive and we deserve that chance. As a disabled adult I feel their pain.
Whether we believe incest is morally right or ‘normal’, it does not affect society enough to justify governments being this interventionist in the lives of their citizens. The European Court of Human Rights have determined that this couple’s rights have not been breached, but many European countries such as France, Turkey, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands allow these activities and perhaps, more optimistically, understand the child’s right to life irrespective of an obstacle or two. Whatever your view on this matter, the European Court of Human Rights have spoken and this will maintain the UK’s position for years to come, or is that the problem?